Amazon Will Pay Shoppers $5 to Walk Out of Stores Empty-Handed

Amazon is offering consumers up to $5 off on purchases if they compare prices using the online giant’s mobile phone application in a store.

The promotion goes live Saturday and will serve as a way for Amazon to increase usage of its bar-code-scanning application, while also collecting intelligence on prices in the stores.

This holiday season, mobile commerce is surging as more people become comfortable using applications on their phone to compare prices or simply shop when not at home or at work.

On the Monday after Thanksgiving, the biggest online shopping day of the year so far, mobile sales reached 6.6 percent, jumping from 2.3 percent in 2010, according to IBM’s online retail study.

Amazon is not the only company hoping for a strong mobile Christmas.

Last quarter, eBay started airing TV commercials — its first in the past few years — to promote its mobile applications. The company estimated that mobile commerce merchandise volume this year will hit $5 billion. Additionally, eBay’s PayPal unit is expected to exceed $3.5 billion in mobile revenue.

Amazon has never released figures on how well its mobile applications do.

While the information empowers consumers, it terrifies retailers, who increasingly are feeling like showrooms — shoppers come to to check out the merchandise but ultimately decide to walk out and buy online instead.

Amazon’s Price Check app, which is available for iPhone and Android, allows shoppers to scan a bar code, take a picture of an item or conduct a text search to find the lowest prices. Amazon is also asking consumers to submit the prices of items with the app, so Amazon knows if it is still offering the best prices.

“We scour online and in-store advertisements from other retailers, every day, year-round,” said Sam Hall, director of Amazon Mobile. “Now, we are enabling customers to use the Price Check app to share in-store prices while they search for the best deals.”

While Amazon’s applications and its $5 incentive can be viewed as friendly to consumers, physical retailers will see it only one way — as an attack.

The one-day promotion Dec. 10 will offer 5 percent, or up to $5, off on as many as three items.

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